why we |should| do it

For whatever reason, I am often posed the following question...

"Why should we continue to fund space exploration? Why should we continue to fund NASA?"

Neil Tyson breaks it down pretty succinctly (and editorialized over at BA). The ready response I've developed for myself parallels their arguments fairly well. However, the answer I always want to use is...

"Why not?"

However that never seems to go over very well. You can at least accurately shoot down anyone with a notion that the space program is "expensive" or is a "waste of our tax dollars." As a function of government spending, it is a minuscule amount and the benefits received (while never planned for) dwarf this in orders of magnitude. I'm not about to defend the NASA bureaucracy, which has an incredibly woeful track record.

I've said before (I think) I would love to work on a project for NASA, like the new version of the Space Shuttle... However Lockheed is exclusively doing that work out of Texas (which makes sense in its proximity to Huston).

I keep wondering if space travel (not the Star Trek version, but at least a local version... the moon and Mars for example) will ever in my lifetime approach what air travel has done. I think we'll have a good measuring stick for that in 30 years... have we taken some positive steps forward or stagnated where we are now?